Everyone. Close your eyes.
If you have ever played a “werewolf”-style social deduction game, then you have probably had to follow those instructions before. I have played a few of them and generally find them to be fun, group activities that can lead to some crazy moments…or if nothing else, some good finger-pointing hilarity.
For this week’s Kickstarter-focused Friday F.O.M.O. segment, I am going to be discussing a campaign that ends in about 5 days — it is brybelly and John Eckerd-Leo‘s newest take on the social deduction genre –> Wolves of Mercia.
From my history of social deduction games (which is not overwhelming), let me start with elements in Wolves of Mercia that may seem familiar — and in doing so, highlight some ways that this game sets itself apart as unique.
Yep, this game has a werewolf in it. BUT the werewolf is just one character in the game and this is not a wolves vs. the villagers kind of game. Think more in terms of “everyone against everyone” in the hopes of achieving your personal win condition.
There are night phases in this game and so there will be times in which eyes need to be closed and tapping sounds made while everyone takes their orderly turn to enact secret deeds in the dark. It very well may be that in the night time, a player achieves her victory condition. When that happens, her role is revealed as she gloats in her dominance.
During the day phases of this game, there will be the normal opportunity to banter and discuss what is happening, pointing fingers at each other with claims of “he’s the cultist” or “she’s the arsonist…someone stop her from burning up the town!” This day phase is not just about talking, though — for some of my usual cohorts around the gaming table, the talking / bluffing / scheming aspect of these social deduction games is a turn-off. In Wolves of Mercia, while the verbal interactions are important, the day phase is full of actions and decisions as well. This is an aspect of the game that I think will help make this title compelling to a broader gamer audience.
The talkers can still enjoy a day time of blabbing and story-telling, while those who are less interested can focus on quiet deduction and strategizing — determining the best action to utilize during their turn.
The lore behind Wolves of Mercia states, “The wolves have begun to howl in Mercia. They herald an ancient curse, which brings five nights of terror and blood.” While the setting of the game may be ushered in by howling wolves, I believe the title of the game also symbolizes that this is a village full of “wolves” who hide in the daylight, but reveal their true nature at night. There may only be one werewolf, but there are plenty of ‘wolves’ in Mercia.
At the beginning of the game, all players will receive a face-up Villager card. This is the role you portray during the day. The card provides a daytime initiative and a special action you can choose to take on your turn.
You will also receive a face-down Secret card. This card reveals the ‘wolf’ that you come out as during the Night phase. You might be a Lover or a Lonely Heart; possibly a Werewolf or a Cultist; maybe even an arsonist, a blackmailer, or an assassin. This card will provide your Night initiative, your nighttime action, and your secret win condition.
Asymmetric Win Conditions
Wolves of Mercia is a party-style game intended for 5+ players. At five, you will have one werewolf, two cultists, and two other secret roles. As you increase in player count, the variety of roles present will continue to expand. And that is where I believe the asymmetric nature of this game will really start to shine. Wolves of Mercia is not your normal Us vs. Them game. Except for a couple of roles with shared victory scenarios (cultists, lovers) everyone is essentially one against many — trying to achieve your own victory condition, while making sure no one else gets to theirs first.
With the variety of villager roles and secret roles, creating interesting combinations (combo’s that may end up changing throughout the game) the variability and replayability of this game should be outstanding.
No Player Elimination
The Kickstarter campaign also touts Wolves of Mercia as a no-player elimination game. Technically that’s not true…players can be killed and eliminated from the game, BUT the rules provide for a method of playing the game in which no one is truly eliminated, by utilizing Phantom cards. Yes, the kills of a werewolf or assassin still count…still matter, but the deceased player is given a chance to continue impacting the game and is provided with an alternative win condition.
I think that is a great decision and addition by the team bringing this game to life — player elimination can become a real drag if you are deep-sixed in an early round of the game — having a chance to still be involved and relevant makes for a better overall experience.
If you look through the campaign, you will see that there are other interesting tidbits about the game that help set it apart from its social deduction peers. At a $15 pledge price, Wolves of Mercia is definitely a game that I would hate to miss out on.
Do you like social deduction games? Any interest in Wolves of Mercia? Any other Kickstarter campaigns catching your eye right now? Comment below!